My Story: Summertime Savings

by Teri from Nevada


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While the pleasant weather, leisurely pace, and long days of summer beckon families to take more outings, the activities don't need to wreck the budget. With a little planning and creativity, you can emphasize the summer fun instead of the summer funds.

As a start, call or visit neighborhood centers, government recreation departments, libraries, churches, and schools to get summer schedules. You'll find free activities or real bargains.

Here are some activities to look for:

  • Free outdoor concerts and community theater in the park.

  • Children's programs at public libraries and community centers.

  • Free or low-cost swimming lessons at community pools.

  • Government-sponsored or Historical Society museums.

  • Concerts, plays and sporting events at local colleges and high schools.

You can find ways to stretch your dollar in everyday summer activities, too. For example:

  • Spend the day hiking or biking in a nature park rather than at an expensive theme park.

  • Pack a picnic instead of stopping at a fast food restaurant.

  • Swim, exercise, or play basketball and tennis outdoors instead of at the indoor facility you use in the winter.

  • Take a day trip to a lake or the beach.

  • When you plan an outing, eat meals before you leave home, then "splurge" on ice cream, fresh fudge, or caramel com instead of buying the entire meal away from home.

As you save money throughout the summer, you may find you can afford one or two big events. You can still cut costs without losing the excitement. For instance:

  • Watch for special promotions such as early-bird ticket sales and group discounts.

  • Again, eat meals before you leave for the ballpark.

  • When allowed by the event's policies, bring your own snacks. Many outdoor concert pavilions encourage picnics.

  • Avoid pricey memorabilia.

  • Pass by the expensive "official" program for the free, smaller handout.

  • Save parking costs by taking public transportation, carpooling, or parking at lower rates several blocks from the event.

While saving money and having fun, don't forget to cut costs around your home as well.

  • Shop at farmers' markets, but purchase goods which you will use, and beware that, as everywhere, there are overpriced items which you do not need. You are there to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, not bottled oils, salsas, jams and jellies or crafts.

  • Grow your own vegetables or herbs, even if you use only a few pots on the porch or patio.

  • Keep your air conditioner at a reasonably high temperature, and be sure to ease the thermostat upward when no one is home. Whenever acceptable, try constant use of the fan only for good air movement.

  • Sign up with your utility company for peak period "cut-offs" in exchange for a monthly credit.

  • Dry your clothes outdoors.

  • Wash your own car.

And remember that it pays to pay attention.

Call them "bleeders" or "leaks." Maybe you like the double-meaning word "sap." Whatever word you choose to use, you may lose money because of unintended carelessness. Money disappears when spending buys nothing useful. We may really not need something and buy it anyway, or maybe we procrastinate on paying a bill and get hit with a late fee. Or maybe we just don't recognize posted signs or warnings of fines. Failing to pay attention can cost us. But the good news is, by paying attention you may really be paying yourself in the long run. While we work hard to save money by cutting expenses, we somehow forget about the leaks that wouldn't even demand lifestyle changes. Maybe the following list will spark ideas of where you can stop your own money from "leaking":

Fines and penalties.

  • Transportation: Parking tickets, traffic tickets (plus resulting higher insurance rates)

  • Bill or loan payments: late fees, over-the limit fees

  • Misc: Late fees for returning videos or library books

Publications.

  • Subscriptions for magazines seldom read

  • Unread newspapers delivered to your home

Services.

  • Empty safe deposit box

  • Unused post office box

  • Underutilized self-storage facilities

  • Unnecessary extras with bank accounts

  • Unnecessary phone services (Do you really need call waiting?)

  • Unwatched cable channels

General Wasting

  • Food: Not using leftovers, failing to use or freeze by the recommended date; buying too much (sometimes in an effort to save money)

  • Utilities: Leaving water running; leaky faucets (literally money down the drain!), watering grass during rain; unadjusted heating/air conditioning when away from home, washing half loads of clothes or dishes.

  • Entertainment: Paying for entertainment when there's lots of free entertainment in the world, like books, music, videos, and paintings from the library.

Lost opportunities

  • Failing to send for rebates

  • Overlooking tax deductions

  • Missing "early bird" pricing specials

  • Buying airline tickets within seven days of flying

  • Mailing at the last minute at expensive special rates

  • Ignoring minor repairs until they're major "emergency" expenditures

  • Forgetting to file insurance claims

Plug up your leaks with a little attention, because as with many things in life-money included- "it's the little things that mean a lot."


"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you've found something that could help other readers please send it to gary@stretcher.com with "My Story" as the subject.

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